Book Cover Roundup, by Emily Winslow

Look! Look! I have a cover!

There were several things I suggested as good possible cover subjects, and a bicycle was one of them, so yay.

Not all authors are so lucky. Two Bloomsbury covers have been in the news lately for misrepresenting race on two of their covers this past year:



Magic Under Glass

(Both have been since fixed (Liar here and Magic Under Glass here), but really? Did Bloomsbury really need public controversy to notice the problem??)

Of more lighthearted cover gaffes, my two favorites are:

The invisible name

The third hand

My cover pet peeve? Ones that use famous works of art that have nothing to do with the content of the book.

In and on this book, two of my favorite things have come together. Do you think this should make me happy? It does not!

Sharan Newman’s Catherine LeVendeur medieval novels are terrific. They feature Eloise and Abelard, later in life, as recurring characters, and star a young nun-turned-wife who has adventures and solves mysteries. I think Newman, an academic historian, has done a really lovely job with the historic worldview.

And Arthur Rackham’s woodcut illustrations of Undine by la Motte Fouque are among the most beautiful illustrations ever created, ever ever. Undine is, hands down, my favorite fairy tale.

This cover is gorgeous, but it should be the cover of Undine, or of a book based on Undine, or referencing Undine, or involving water sprites or set in the time and culture and milieu in which this woodcut was created. This image isn’t of a generic woman-in-angst; it’s a specific character in a literal scene–a scene that happens in Undine, not in Heresy.

Some people may recognize this cover image from a previous blog post of mine. All I can say about this is: Louise d’Haussonville and Constanze Mozart are not the same person! Louise is a person in her own right, not a generic representation of “old time woman”! Ack! (And, um, Louise was French, while Constanze was German. And Louise was painted in the mid-nineteenth-century, while Constanze was born in the mid-18th-century. There’s, well, not a lot of correspondence here…)

Wuthering Heights is about a woman named Catherine. This cover image, however, is famously of Emma Hamilton, the mistress of Lord Nelson, posing as Circe, a Greek sorceress. Again, here’s a famous woman in her own right, posing as a legendary mythical character, being used as a “generic old-timey pretty woman.” I can’t look at her and see Heathcliff’s Catherine. I can only see Emma/Circe. I know that’s who that is.

It’s that genericizing that disappoints me. Would you use the Empire State Building as a general “skyscraper” for a book about Chicago? Would you use a movie still of Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara for the cover of a Mark Twain book because she’s “old-time and southern”??

The covers are gorgeous (and the books inside them are terrific). I admit that. I’m supposing the designers assumed that “no one will know who the original women/characters are.” Emma Hamilton and Louise d’Haussonville deserve better. Undine and Circe deserve better. They’re not forgotten yet.